The touch interface, excellent visuals and portability of the iPad can make it easier and simpler to encourage students to generate new ideas, organize their known knowledge about a topic and make connections with ideas and the written word.
There are lots of great brainstorming/mindmapping Apps available, but one that we have found useful at all school levels is Popplet.
Popplet has an easy to use interface, intuitive for users, is visually appealing and allows you to embed images, and links. You can save your brainstorm as a jpeg or pdf and email it out.
Popplet lite is free, with a limitation of one brainstorm at a time. But you can save it to your camera roll or email it out, then delete it in Popplet and create another. Or you can go to the paid App that allows you to also collaborate with others, along with other added features.
In one example, the teacher gets each student to create a Popplet on the topic/question at hand and then asks the students to get up from their seats and to move to another students Popplet and add an extra idea/answer. This not only gets a good sharing of ideas but also contributes to the groups understanding of the topic. Additionally all that movement keeps the students alert and focused on the task. In these classes at St Agnes there is no chance to sit back and not contribute or not learn.
An excellent post on Popplet and writing is 'iPads can't improve learning without good teaching, Pt 2 writing' by Mr G online talks about using Popplet to plan your writing. The post then continues discussing some great ways of using a variety of Apps in writing.
A great list of resources and links for Brainstorming with Popplet and the iPad are at:
Tips 2012 App Guide #16 Popplet.
But if you want to go beyond Popplet there are lots of other Apps you can try, many of them free. The TechChef4U website has a whole page dedicated to great teaching and learning ideas with a range of brainstorming and mindmapping Apps at Hot Apps 4 Brainstorming: Episode 5. Another review of brainstorming Apps can be found at Macworld's iOS brainstorming Apps.
A useful youtube tutorial from iPadagogy.com explains how to use Popplet lite.
An action research project by Bradley Christmas (Centre for English Teaching University of Sydney) explored the effects of brainstorming techniques on students perceptions of their writing performance The role of brainstorming in improving student writing performance in the EFL classroom. Brainstorming says Christmas gives the opportunity to think "about a question from different perspectives, as well as exploring the perspectives of their classmates, students can develop the skills to help them access and develop a broader range of ideas in a writing situation."